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The long-term evolution of TARGET

24 October 2002

Today, the Governing Council of the ECB took a strategic decision on the direction of the next generation of the TARGET system (TARGET2). The present TARGET system was created on the basis of the existing national real-time gross settlement system (RTGS) infrastructures, using an approach geared towards minimum harmonisation. This approach was the best way of ensuring that the system would be operational from the very start of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). However, in view of increasing financial integration within the euro area and given that the business needs of the main users of TARGET are becoming ever more similar, the system needs to be enhanced.

The main objective of the Eurosystem is to ensure that TARGET evolves towards a system that (i) better meets customers' needs by providing an extensively harmonised service level, (ii) guarantees cost efficiency and (iii) is prepared for swift adaptation to future developments, including the enlargement of the European Union (EU) and the Eurosystem. At the same time, the national central banks (NCBs) will remain responsible for the accounts and business relations with the credit institutions.

The main principles and the basic structure of the future TARGET2 system, which is expected to become operational a few years from now, can be summarised as follows:

  • TARGET2 will continue to be a multiple-platform system, consisting of national components and of one "shared component". The latter will be an IT-platform commonly used by a number of central banks on a voluntary basis. Indeed, it will no longer be necessary for every NCB to maintain a platform of its own. This approach gives due consideration to the fact that cost efficiency would be difficult to preserve in a totally fragmented IT infrastructure, in particular in view of new Member States joining TARGET in the not too distant future. Within three years after the start of operation of TARGET2, it will be assessed whether the single shared component can satisfy the needs of all central banks and their banking communities not wishing to maintain a national platform. Eventually, it may be decided to build additional shareable components at a later stage of TARGET2.
  • As in the case of the present TARGET system, TARGET2 will be a system for the settlement of predominantly systemically relevant, large-value euro payments in central bank money. Nevertheless, again as is the case at present, there will not be any de jure or de facto limits, set by the Eurosystem or the NCBs, on any payments that users may wish to process in real time in central bank money.
  • TARGET2 will have a far more harmonised service level than the present system. There will be a broadly defined core servicewhich will include all those services and functions that are offered by all TARGET2 components. Nevertheless, central banks will have the possibility of providing some specific national services in addition to the core service. The service level of TARGET2 will be defined in close co-operation with the TARGET user community.
  • For the core service of TARGET2, there will be a single Eurosystem-wide price structure for domestic and cross-border TARGET transactions. The price structure could, nevertheless, provide for the graduation of prices according to the number of payments a participant sends or according to the timing of the payment. Additional services could continue to be priced separately and independently by each central bank.

On the basis of both the decision taken by the Governing Council and the views of TARGET users, which will be ascertained via a public consultation exercise, the Eurosystem will establish a project plan for the next generation of TARGET. The new system is not expected to become operational before the second half of this decade.

The Governing Council has also decided that NCBs of accession countries will have the possibility – but not the obligation – to connect to TARGET as from their joining the European Union.

A range of options for such connection, including scenarios avoiding the need for an own euro RTGS platform, will be elaborated and discussed with the NCBs of the accession countries in the near future.


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